Squats vs. deadlifts

Hi Lee,
how’s your lifting going? Hope all is well?
Whats your opinion about deadlift vs. squats? Are you squatting at all or solely focusing on deadlifts?
Thanks in advance + all the best,


Thanks for writing.

My lifting is going great, thanks. It’s super fun to see (and feel) improvements, and it’s awesome to not be so weak. Funny thing about weakness: You don’t know it’s there until it’s gone.

Another PR last week: 310 pounds then ride home. Check out Heavy … is a state of mind.

Both squats and deadlifts are important — and widely used by trainers and athletes.

In squats you keep your torso pretty upright. Your knees travel forward a bit, and the work is done by your hips and quads.

In deadlifts you start in a deep hinge (like an MTB attack position). You keep your knees above the middle of your feet and drive primarily with your hips.

I believe the deadlift (hip hinge) is the A1 most important movement we mountain bikers can practice. The F6 off-bike training program focuses on hip hinge for a reason. Once deadlifts are dialed, you can add squats if you like.

Check this out:

I often do light squats and multi-planar lunges as a warmup and to maintain mobility, but I only lift heavy with deadlifts. Why?

1) I can only do so much, especially while balancing Life and base training. All training must deliver maximum benefit per unit of punishment.

2) Deadlifts seem more applicable to what we do on the bike. Most riders’ knees know what to do. I believe most of us get more benefit from working the hips.

Hip drive or death! A wheelie drop is very much like a deadlift: Explode from your glutes while anchoring your bars to your hips

3) My shoulders can’t handle barbell squats. No sense fighting that.

98-99% of the riders I work with don’t know how to fire from their hips. They are totally quad dominant, which makes them weaker than they want to be, and it also limits their ability to control their bikes (because their shoulders are so high). My PTs and trainers at REVO Physiotherpy and Sports Performance see the same thing.

Most of us will get huge benefit from mastering the deadlift. Check out How to deadlifts apply to MTB?

Make sense? Have fun out there!


Know more. Have more fun!

Join the leelikesbikes mailing list:

5 replies
  1. Jim says:

    Go somewhere and learn proper deadlifts, and then take one of Lee’s clinics. A light will come on. You’ll totally get it. Just learning the proper movement, regardless of how much you lift, will be a big help on the bike.

  2. Brian Rowbotham says:

    I personally think both have their place. A low bar back squat will be very similar in body positioning to a deadlift, especially for someone like me with monster arms which allows a more vertical deadlift. I would also point out the trap bar deadlift is somewhere between a barbell deadlift and a half squat. Not knocking them, as they

    Almost done with PUTB and absolutely killing it on the climbs right now. Thanks for the good programs Lee!

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Brian, congrats on PUTB. It sure works, eh?

    I agree both squats and deadlifts are good for you, as are lunges, etc. and etc.

    My body can only handle so many UOVs (Units of Violence). Given that knowledge, I ride as much as I have to (sometimes 6 days a week) and dead lift heavy once a week. Squats and all directions of lunges are done almost daily, with bodyweight or light weight.

    Have fun out there!


  4. Anne says:

    A few thoughts on deadlifts:
    Make sure your form is absolutely perfect before going up in weight. I’m starting again with deadlifts to not hurt myself by using a broomstick and working strictly on form.

    Figure out what’s possibly an issue because that can impact the entire chain. I have issues with my shoulders rolling forward from working at the computer day in and day out (plus weight on the chest) that I have a to really make sure my shoulders are not rounded when deadlifting so it doesn’t impact my low back.

    Oh yeah, definitely get a trainer for this. Huge help to not end up back in PT for injuring yourself deadlifting.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *